15. “International standards”
The respect for “international standards of justice” has been the main focus of AI and other human rights groups. AI has already written a number of reports that Rwanda has already responded to.
AI, however, has not bothered to take a little its precious time to read the responses that came from a small country like Rwanda. It keeps repeating the same accusations in the same terms.
Naturally, AI seems to understand that “international standards of justice” necessarily mean the same thing as “European” standards, if we are to believe the example it puts forth to support its point of view.
The cultural ethnocentrism of AI does not surprise or bother anyone anymore. It is universally accepted, with conviction or with resignation, that Europe, the West is a model for the future of humanity.
The non European members of AI have to take it or leave it. But that is another issue.
We can only remember that like all other African judicial systems, the Rwandan one is modelled on the European or Western systems: studies, teaching, training courses, law books and manuals, teachers, consultant experts, etc…are products of the western judicial system and so are a good number of judges lawyers in the ICTR.
If we are to believe AI, this process that has been going on for more than a century is a complete failure; either judicial teaching was poorly done or the African is in rebellion against western teachings (according to the father of DNA),
This seems to be true in the case of Rwanda where the judicial system is under constant scrutiny by a big number of European or western NGOs who make no effort to understand our language and culture.
Does AI have better “independent experts” they are ready to send to Rwanda “to ensure the trials are fair”? They are always welcome.
There are some worrying precedents and reasons to believe that like all other observers who come to Rwanda, those from AI will after their work only come to the preconceived conclusion that has already been made by AI.
16. Torture and inhuman treatment
AI says that in addition to other international standards that Rwanda must conform to, she must show “that persons transferred for trial are not at risk of torture or subjected to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
This borders on defamation, as though this is what is happening in Rwanda! Does AI believe that being in Rwanda is the same as being in Guantanamo? Or in the French era in Algeria?
When people think and talk of torture or any other form of inhuman treatment, no one spontaneously thinks or talks of Rwanda, but of other countries, and not at least among them, those where AI recommends that Rwandan genocide suspects should be tried.
When we are talking of inhuman treatment, we may even think of the ICTR before we think of Rwanda, remembering the 2002 boycott against the ICTR by witnesses who were genocide survivors; a boycott that some oddly tried to link to the intentions of Carla del Ponte to incriminate the RPA, whereas the boycott was in fact against the inhuman way boorish defence advocates were treating genocide .
survivors who had been rape victims. This fits exactly to what AI would describe as torture and inhuman treatment! And we do not remember reading or hearing a single word of indignation from AI in that matter.
Besides that, there is inhuman treatment of both suspects and witnesses in Arusha, which they risk getting if their cases are transferred somewhere else other than Rwanda.
It would be unthinkable for a Rwandan lawyer who is of the same culture as the victim to be as cynical and boorish as the Arusha lawyers who dare to ask a rape victim what amount of pleasure she felt during the rape.
Any jurisdiction which takes an accused person outside his or her socio-cultural context risks conducting an unfair trial. It is true that in a culture like the western one importance is not given to the truth but to the law, procedures are more important than justice and truth of things. It is with reason that we think and fear that what AI calls “international standards” are mere procedures that have become routine in the West.
17. Case based on assumptions
Due to the fact that Rwanda HAS NOT ratified the convention against torture AI judges that Rwanda HAS THE INTENTION of torturing the suspects. This is clearly a case of judgment by assumption. Let us put aside the fact that AI’s demand that Rwanda should ratify the convention was expressed in the usual threatening manner!
It is possible that Rwanda may have delayed in the ratification of the convention but we do not know of any deadline given on that matter. Almost everything is urgent in Rwanda. Besides, Rwanda’s priorities are not laid out by AI. There is no presumption of innocence when it comes to dealing with Rwanda.
There is a more serious allegation: “AI is concerned that torture takes place in Rwanda”. The cases cited by AI are blameworthy, even if they need more scrutiny and further information to be proved.
The first case talks of secret detention centres but goes on to say that the “extent of the practice is not fully known and that though “reported” they are some of the allegations “which have been denied by the Rwandan government”. Word for word, this means that AI is ready to believe “reports” from anywhere but none from the Rwandan government.
It is legitimate to ask Rwanda about those cases and ask for explanation, but hearsay is not part of “international standards” of good judgment. It is a bit too much to use hearsay as a pretext for denying Rwanda the right to judge its nationals
18. “We gave them independence too soon…”
After 1960, the year of independence for the Congo, whenever the Congolese more or less strayed from “civilized” ways, the average Belgian would lament and say , “We gave them independence too early”. We sometimes wonder whether AI does not regret the independence of certain countries like Rwanda.
For that matter, how many of the countries proposed by AI to judge Rwandan nationals are in its good books I for respecting “international standard of justice”? Let us begin counting with those presented to us as model democracies which without doubt establish “international standard of justice”. Reading the daily press reveals to us that this number could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Their courts would be overwhelmed by cases sent to them by AI.
19. An in-house report by faceless investigators
AI claims to be concerned about the living conditions in Rwandan prisons without citing any cases. It refers to only one report which it made itself and called AI report 2007 (we know that this report is at least one year old). The report does not mention a single improvement among those can attest to by the ICRC. In its “appeal”, AI carefully avoided recognising any of the improvements.
AI does not mention what kind of persons write its reports; the Rwanda public prosecutor says that he has not met even one of them.
The secret nature of these people who write reports for these international organizations has always been and remains a mystery. At best, AI is acting like the some vicious highway policeman who hides behind shrubs to catch motorists at fault.
AI mentions grudgingly acknowledges the existence of a five star prison that Rwanda has urgently built, at very great cost, for the men and women in Arusha, France and Navarre, a prison that AI knows only by hearsay.
AI makes a report on prisons that it did not visit not even through its wall-hugging investigators. The organization quotes reports that “a new prison facility which is designed to meet international standards – the Mpanga prison – has been opened in recent years and a special area has been established within that prison for persons transferred from the ICTR or extradited from other countries.
AI writes and also regrets that Rwanda did not invest more to put all prisons at that standard (the new prison is an exception) in a country where a prisoner lives better than an ordinary citizen.
20. An unknown court to reconcile a people it does not know!
Having opted to be systemically suspicious of Rwanda, AI is worried that the ordinary prisoner might not benefit from the facilities and wonders whether Rwanda will be supervised well enough so that it will not quietly transfer prisoners from Arusha and elsewhere to ordinary detestable prisons.
AI is also worried that Rwanda may not be able to maintain the “international standards” of the new prisons! In the absence of the quibbling supervision or “full scrutiny” by a committee against torture and a sub committee for prevention of torture, AI advocates that the ICTR and countries holding or harbouring genocide suspects should not transfer them to Rwanda . Quote, “there are currently no mechanisms to monitor…that they are not transferred to other facilities….or to ensure that their detention does not deteriorate”. (Pg 9)
We can see that there are plenty of jobs for monitors and for the monitors of monitors such as AI.
It is indecent for AI to dismiss the risks faced by witnesses in the Gacaca courts in a country where we can see, as it happened after the Holocaust that the after-effects of the genocide cannot go away in a day.
Does AI think it can eliminate these consequences by taking away a handful of genocide suspects and protecting them from the justice of their country?
Do they think that with the naivety of Carla del Ponte, they can reconcile Rwandans from a small unknown town in Tanzania and a faraway court where obscure justice is doled out to the people of Rwanda? We doubt that and we can only see the lack of realism and demagogy characteristic of long-distance armchair justice dispensed by AI and the like.
21. AI is just the tip of an iceberg
It is important to ask ourselves about the particular conditions which create favourable breeding ground for the emergence of organizations like AI, which assign themselves the job of preaching and imposing their questionable values on sovereign nations and meddle in their governance.
We should also remember that the distrust of African justice and little respect for the countries dispensing it is not exclusive to AI.
It is a generalized sentiment in the west and AI is just the tip of the iceberg. We remember the case of the Belgian priest Theunis, who was arrested on Rwandan soil for complicity in genocide, and Belgium demanded that he be tried in Belgium; there is also the Zoë’s Arch affair in Chad and the declarations of President Sarkozy, that he could not let French nationals be judged in Chad. More explicitly, we can compare his speech in Dakar to another he made in Tangier. In the first, we find an image of sub-Saharan Africa fossilised and set aside in history and responsible for the contempt it is held in, and in the second, an image of a North Africa that can get respected.
22. An idyllic prison?
AI hardy accepts the fact that Rwanda is making progress. What it was unable to do while emerging out of genocide is progressively being achieved.
An American journalist wrote, “if prison conditions in the middle of 1996 were very poor, terrible in most prisons, the mortality rate in most prisons was lower that the national rate” (10; p. 342-343).
The day Gourrevitch visited the Gitarama prison, “in the juvenile cell, 63 boys, 7-16 years, were seated on the ground with a blackboard in front of them taking lessons from an older inmate who was a teacher by profession”. (10; p.343).
All prisons in the world are appalling according to the whole body of prison literature. While prisoners in Europe revolt against poor prison conditions, in the ICTR prisons in Arusha, overfed prisoners go on hunger strike, write books , organise weddings, and complaints about the poor quality of buns for breakfast.
A UN inspector went to Mali to check on the prison conditions for ICTR prisoners there and found the cells were empty.
The so-called prisoners had gone on a trip to town, to look for an international telephone. Some prisons are definitely less appalling than others.
All prisons in the world are appalling. The absurd idea of an idyllic prison can only be found in the writings of AI. Prisons take away the liberty of human beings who did not control their animal instinct and degrade their status below that of free animals.
Liberty is a basic human right. Prison is an imported idea from the west.
Before colonization, Africans had no prisons, no homes for the aged and no lunatic asylums. The colonialists created all that and spread it throughout Africa. Organizations like AI and HRW have assumed the colonial burden of making sure things keep running as usual, permitting no change and, as AI stated, monitoring beautiful prisons like Mpanda to keep them from deteriorating by the incompetence or spitefulness of Rwandans
23. Rwanda is not the declared hellhole!
It is better to choose the lesser of two evils where there is no other choice. According to the testimony of some visitors, Rwandan prisons are one of the most humane in the world. Gourrevitch wrote, “Fights were very rare and there was never a murder”. (10; p.336).
This has not always been the case. Far from it. Immediately after the Tutsi genocide, it was worse. We have made progress. For all people of good faith, Rwanda is not the hell it was predicted to become during and immediately after the genocide, or as claimed by AI today. What we have not yet managed to halt is the fear that free suspects have of being denounced, which had led them to murder witnesses before and after Gacaca court hearings; but it is neither the permanent bloodbath that experts had prophesied nor the blind vengeance by the Tutsi claimed by some Rwandan hotheads in the Diaspora.
24. When AI concludes….
In concluding its indictment of Rwanda, AI in a rare fit of generosity states that it “fully supports the development of the national justice system in Rwanda” but goes further to deny Rwanda “its ability to conduct trials”.
We have seen that with its requests for high standards, AI should do better by calling for the closure of all prisons in the world because, after all, incarcerating people is inhuman as it denies them the basic right to liberty.
And Human Rights organizations should redirect their campaigns to the abolition of prisons.
Not only for the white collar prisoners in Arusha but as democracy obliges, also for the ordinary citizens they led, who took up machetes and obediently slaughtered a million fellow human beings. (10. p.345)
More dispassionate thinkers than AI have debated the issue of how to curb the bestial brutality of man to man and failed to find a solution.
Will AI and the like find the sure solution that generations have sought in vain? Nothing is for sure.
Another thought came to mind after reading the AI “appeal”. In 2002 after reading an arrogant AI report full of false claims on Rwanda, I asked myself this question: Does AI, HRW, etc (we can add RSF) have the right to oversee the governance of countries? .
This question remains currently unanswered.